Much Ado About Nothing

Bastardy in Shakespeare College

In four of Shakespeare's plays, he introduces a character who is illegitimate. Philip Faulconbridge, Don John, Thersites, and Edmund are all children who were born out of wedlock. Also, all four characters were antagonists, if not the main antagonists, of the plays. In Much Ado About Nothing, Don John causes doubt in the mind of Claudio, which leads the relationship between Claudio and Hero to crumble. However, as the play is a comedy, the relationship was ultimately repaired and Don John is captured. Don John, while talking about himself, says that he cannot hide what he is: 'a plain-dealing villain.' (Much Ado 1.3.28) As a contrast, Edmund, while still a villain, seems to have been created due to the social stigma of being a bastard, rather than born evil. At the end of King Lear, Edmund, as a villain, is killed. Both Don John and Edmund are shaped both by the social stigma surrounding their births, but also by their nature. Therefore, in comparing the characters of Don John and Edmund, one can see that a villain is sometimes both born and made, rather than born or made.

As an illegitimate child, Edmund is not entitled to any of his father's inheritance once Gloucester died. Instead, the entirety of the wealth...

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